Reebok CCM and mc10 have announced an exciting new joint venture to develop and distribute a skull cap with an embedded impact indicator.

It is designed to help determine if medical treatment or rest is needed before an individual should be permitted to return to play after a potential head injury. It will initially be marketed to hockey players, since Reebok CCM is the company’s hockey brand, but will easily fit underneath any helmet used by athletes in all sports at all levels, as it is explicitly designed for such universal usability.

The impact indicator is mc10’s first commercial product and demonstrates the disruptive nature of their flexible electronics at the consumer level. Most prior demonstrations by mc10 of the potential applications for the underlying technology, which was developed by John Rogers, professor of materials science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, have been clinical applications. When I first covered the flexible electronic tattoos Rogers unveiled, I speculated that we may be witnessing a “black swan” event in the evolution of the mobile health industry because the technology seemed to be the perfect mixture of form and function with almost unimaginable efficiency.

“As one of the leading equipment manufacturers in the world, we are focused on not only improving the performance of amateur and professional athletes, but also doing whatever we can to protect players from possible injury,” said Philippe Dubé, General Manager of Reebok-CCM Hockey. “As we know, head injuries are of the greatest concern today, and there is still much to be learned in this area. This product is a significant step forward in this process and we’re very excited to be able to make it available to consumers for the first time next year.”

“Conformal biometric sensors are changing the game for both the elite and the student athlete,” said David Icke, CEO of MC10.  “MC10’s sports products give athletes the enhanced sensing they need to optimize peak performance, while safely preserving the benefits and spirit of game play.”

I think mc10 and Reebok should open up an API to developers which allows them to build third-party applications that interact with the skull cap. I suspect future generations of the skull cap could include EEG sensors which allow for use as a brain computer interface (BCI). There are other companies tackling this problem too (pun fully intended), but in different ways. Brain Sentry is one developing a helmet mounted device which alerts players and coaches when a collision occurs which threatens the brain health of the player who sustained the blow.

Icke spoke the day following the mc10 announcement of this deal at the EmTech conference hosted by MIT, but he didn’t reveal anything new in the way of specifics or prototype images as expected. During his talk, Icke describes mc10’s mission as one of providing “best in class healthcare support” beyond the hospital setting with a focus on consumer fitness, digital health and medical device markets. He also tipped his hand on some of the long-term business model ideas the company is toying with in concept as they begin building applications that interact with the “seamless sensing” technology, which he defines as “getting high quality data while remaining invisible to the user and maintaining scalability.”